Neighborhood Watch: Chinatown

Why this cultural hot spot isn't just for tourists anymore

Big things are afoot in little Chinatown.

With equal parts kitsch and culture, L.A.'s oldest and most storied neighborhood is becoming a dining destination again, jump-started in part by the relocation of Roy Choi's Chego to Far East Plaza a few months ago.

On Hill Street, stop by the semi-hidden Melody Lounge, a former karaoke dive that has revamped into a lantern-strewn craft beer haven by the owners of Westlake's Monty Bar. A dozen taps pour local brews from the likes of Angel City, Cismontane and The Bruery ($6 to $8), while a lengthy fridge case holds a collection of more obscure beers.

Nguyen and Thi Tran with Korean-style chicken wings

Nguyen and Thi Tran, the boisterous husband-and-wife team behind the Asian pop-up Starry Kitchen, are now calling the former Grand Star Jazz Club home from Wednesday through Sunday. Start with a basket of piping-hot crispy tofu balls ($6), then move on to bolder dishes such as X.O. fried rice with house-cured pork belly ($15) or Singapore chili crab with beer beignets ($MP)–provided they don't sell out first.

Slip in for a late-night drink at 643 North, a slick Italian restaurant with a bar program by Far Bar alum Adam Acuff. Classic Italian cocktails like the Cardinale ($10)–made with gin, dry vermouth and Campari–whet your appetite before the crisp smoked salmon pizza lands, topped with pesto and goat cheese ($18).